Democratic Rep Proposes Bill to Mandate Regular On-Camera WH Press Briefings

Sean Spicer / Getty
July 14, 2017

Rep. Jim Himes (D, Conn.) proposed a bill on Thursday that, if adopted, would mandate that the White House conduct a minimum of two on-camera press briefings every week.

Himes introduced the "Free Press Act" in response to the Trump administration’s "hostile" attitude toward the press, the Hill reported.

"President Trump has displayed an overtly hostile attitude toward the press since the early days of the presidential campaign," said Himes.

The legislation is aiming to guarantee both regular and accessible White House press briefings. 

"This simple bill achieves two important goals," Himes said. "First, it ensures that the press briefings will continue on a regular schedule. Second, it guarantees the American people have access to the proceedings first hand."

White House briefings have decreased in frequency since the early days of the Trump administration, and those that do occur are held off-camera. The restrictions have resulted in a backlash from some members of the press and have fueled the ongoing "war" between the president and what he has dubbed the "fake news" media.

Himes argued Thursday that the administration’s actions suppressed "necessary reporting" and is incompatible with a "functioning democracy."

"A free and independent press is essential to the survival of a functioning democracy," he added. "The media’s role is to ask the tough questions on behalf of the American public and work to hold our leaders accountable. I hope this bill helps push back on the efforts of this, or any, administration to suppress this necessary reporting."

Trump routinely attacked the "mainstream media" as "fake news" during his presidential campaign for what he argued was their biased, largely negative coverage. Trump's attacks have continued, delighting his supporters and frustrating outlets dubbed "fake news."

Trump has tweeted numerous times since early 2016 about the failings of the media. Shortly after taking office, he took to Twitter to bash MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and the New York Times.

On February 18, he responded to reports that there was "chaos" in the White House.

In June, Trump's "fake news" tweets once again made headlines during a feud with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

The recent uproar over press briefings began in June when the White House began banning cameras—and some audio—at particular briefings.

CNN responded by sending a sketch artist to a briefing on June 23 in order to "document the scene."

On June 27, CNN’s Jim Acosta yelled at deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for the administration’s "stonewalling" and "suppression of information."

No White House press briefing has been on-camera since that date.

The administration, in addition to joking about press secretary Sean Spicer’s weight, has argued that on-camera press briefings are not always necessary and can be a distraction.

"Some days we'll do it [on camera]," Sean Spicer said in June. "I think it's great for us to come out here and have a substantive discussion about policies. I don't think that the be all and end all is whether it's on television or not."